Are you worried about black fungus? When you hear this term - do you think about water-damaged buildings and the infamous Stachybotrys sp. fungus?
Did you know that black fungus is a term that has a specific meaning around a specific class of fungi known to cause very serious health problems for people? The mucoromycetes or black fungi belong to the scientific order Mucorales and cause problems for people who are immunosuppressed or have comorbidities like diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive lung disease, or are taking immunosuppressive medication for e.g. transplants or even those who are recovering from pneumonia.
I first became aware of black mould from some publications that came out in the literature talking about black yeast-like fungi that were found to be thermotolerant. They’re in many homes in dishwashers and washing machine seals. Sometime later I recovered numerous examples of black yeasts and black fungi from my time at Nauru where many of the tent city accommodation materials were heavily colonized by black yeasts and black fungi.
A recent paper came out in the journal Science of the Total Environment on early release on the 16th of September 2021 which focuses on the connection between black fungus that causes a disease called, Mucormycosis.
Black fungus disease can have a devastating impact for people who contract COVID 19 and even for those who are recovering from COVID-19 and who are more properly classed as COVID long haulers.
My purpose in presenting this live stream is really to bring about awareness to every person about the potential impact of black fungus and explore some of the reasons why everyone should be aware of post-COVID infection co-infection with black fungi. It is my hope that this live stream prevents unnecessary illness, infection and even death.
So, what are the common types of black fungus and why is this connected with COVID? To answer this question, I need to focus on two of the most common fungi that are implicated in mucormycosis and they are from the Genus that includes Rhizopus sp. and Mucor sp. These are typically fast-growing fungi that produce copious spores.
In fact, when I do water damage investigations, and one I even did last week which I am using as an example, to demonstrate how pervasive these fungi are. You can see that Rhizopus has grown around the sides of the petri dish and outside in a matter of less than five days on a nutritionally rich supportive medium.
The problem is that these black coloured fungi in the immunocompromised hosts such as those recovering from COVID can utilize the iron in blood as a food source. It must be remembered that the pre-COVID infectious period includes the one to two weeks prior to symptoms. The next month is the acute phase of COVID infection. And after five weeks, this is the post-COVID-19 period.
Those admitted to the hospital are commonly offered steroid medications. These steroids like dexamethasone work by dampening down the body's immune system, but at the same time, they also increase the levels of iron in the blood, which the black fungi use as a food source. Although dexamethasone does work and is a relatively inexpensive medication, it is a problem for treatment, especially when this has become widespread due to the fact that although it produces an anti-inflammatory effect, this property is at the same time, immunosuppressive in action. This means this steroid has two contrasting properties as a treatment. The authors of this publication suggest that other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen could be used instead, to treat the vascular stage of inflammation and which may not have such adverse or contrasting cost-benefit for people’s health.
There are many ways in which black fungus can enter the body. Depending on where it enters, this determines the impact of the severity of the fungal infection. We've already covered the fact that people with comorbidities and immunosuppression are more likely to be susceptible to infection with these common fungi which can enter through the air or through touching contaminated surfaces or even through the food chain.
So of course, they can cause gastrointestinal mucosal or ocular effects, it may invade the sinus or orbital cavity or may cause direct infection through breaks or cuts in the skin. And if it does enter through the sinus cavity it is possible to breach the blood-brain barrier and affect the cerebellum. The outcomes are extraordinarily dire for the infected patient.
So, what is the takeaway from this particular Livestream? Number one, it's very important that you know whether or not you are at risk. Just because you've recovered from COVID 19 does not mean that your body is capable of neutralizing invading pathogens like the black fungi. Everyone should be mindful of the fact the indoor living environment has an effect on your overall health and predisposition to infection. Therefore, inadequate hygiene, high humidity, and water-damaged materials can cause an already compromised immune system to become susceptible to various diseases.
It's also important to improve the overall microbiome or your gut microflora. And so, following common knowledge health practices around gut health include consuming yogurt and fermented foods rich in probiotics. These tips are highlighted by the authors of this publication. Overall hygiene is also important to minimize infections of the skin and fomite transfer, for example to the sinus or ocular cavity by washing hands with soap and water.
The authors also stress that there are many common natural methods to boost immunity and retard or disinfect the growth of fungi including applying: apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, organic oil, coconut oil, turmeric, aloe vera, garlic, neem leaves, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, ginger, and or consuming vitamin C rich foods cannot be underestimated for people recovering from COVID to minimize the risks of infection from black fungi.
Pushparaj K, Kuchi Bhotla H, Arumugam VA, Pappusamy M, Easwaran M, Liu WC, Issara U, Rengasamy KRR, Meyyazhagan A, Balasubramanian B. Mucormycosis (black fungus) ensuing COVID-19 and comorbidity meets - Magnifying global pandemic grieve and catastrophe begins. Sci Total Environ. 2022 Jan 20;805:150355. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150355. Epub 2021 Sep 16. PMID: 34818767; PMCID: PMC8443313. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.150355
Lukács, G., Papp, T., Nyilasi, I., Nagy, E., & Vágvölgyi, C. (2004). Differentiation of Rhizomucor species on the basis of their different sensitivities to lovastatin. Journal of clinical microbiology, 42(11), 5400–5402. https://doi.org/10.1128/JCM.42.11.5400-5402.2004
Zupančič, J., Novak Babič, M., Zalar, P., & Gunde-Cimerman, N. (2016). The Black Yeast Exophiala dermatitidis and Other Selected Opportunistic Human Fungal Pathogens Spread from Dishwashers to Kitchens. PloS one, 11(2), e0148166. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0148166.
Air Quality and Mould Inspection Report: Nauru Regional Processing Centre.https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/foi/files/2020/fa-191000441-document-released.PDF
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